Dan Black Tour Profile

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Sarah Benzuly


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So it was with all of this in mind that when I started working with Dan Black, I was thinking of using the most versatile and unobtrusive system I could put together. Again, Dan's shows where wide-ranging from large festivals to clubs and fashion events. So taking regular production would be a pain. Dan's sound is a gathering of electronic and organic—electronic drum kit, loops, pads, synth, bass, guitar and Dan's distinct vocal; lots of electronics but all played and triggered live by the band. To enable me to keep as much consistency from show to show, I implemented Allen & Heath's IDR32 as the brains of the outfit and mounted it into the Plexiglas illuminated loop station that lives next to the drum kit onstage. So all my inputs from the band go straight to the IDR32. Once we wheel it onto the stage, it's just a matter of running out two looms to connect my inputs and three cables for backing vocals.

I output five mixes into the house multi (L, R and three wedge mixes), plus two sends for the drummer's mixer and one stereo in-ear mix, which is for Ferdi who plays pads, sings and triggers the loops. However, he doesn't have a headphone amp or a wireless system so I simply plug his headphones into the headphone socket of the IDR32 and I PFL his stereo ears mix for the show. Now it's an integral part of their setup—it really is plug and play! Fifteen-minute festival change-over? No problem! Five inputs to the house, first two faders up in the house, monitor mix one to stage right, mix two to center and mix three to stage left? Just check five input gains and they're on!

I've split my file on the editor into three desks now so I have an FOH desk, a wedge mix desk and an in-ears desk. This gives me greater control and flexibility over the show and everybody's listening pleasure. This is now much more easy to achieve and setup using the new custom layers function. It's simply a box into which I can drag any and as many faders as I like, and I can have as many layers as I like. So I have an FOH layer with all the channels, FX and DCAs I'm likely to play with for the FOH mix. A wedge layer with separate channels and the master aux controls. An in-ears layer with more separate channels, and so on.

Ialso have a record mix layer and a DCA layer. It's a cinch to switch between layers and everything you need is right in front of you all the time. It can be like mixing one-handed the first time you try it because you've only got one cursor, but once you think about your layout and assign DCAs carefully, it becomes second nature. It's great being able to mix from the audience. I'm no longer stuck at FOH and can listen to what the audience is hearing and make changes in real time from right where it matters. I've had no wireless issues either, even at some big festivals where I've been up to 60m away from the router and it's only a regular NetGear home router, nothing special. Same goes for the laptop; it's just a regular £500 Sony from a couple years ago. It makes a real difference being able to use your own desk always.

What's the most important part of your mix?
Not too much ice and orange, plenty of vodka! Control is probably the most important thing. There's so much extraneous stuff happening live and you really need to have a handle on everything or you'll be chasing your tail and tying yourself in knots trying to find what's missing or what's bothering you in the mix. Keep it simple, work with what you've got and build a good foundation. From that you'll get consistency and from there you mold the sound into what you want to achieve.

Mixing live, you're the engineer, mixer and the producer. What you say goes because it's live. Get the band in the habit of asking themselves are they creating the right sound in the first place, get it right at the source and your gig is so much easier. Then you can work with the act, helping them create arrangements that work better live. Sometimes you only need to imply stuff for people to hear it, sometimes you only notice the FX when you mute them and that "something" is gone. But above all have fun (and get your invoice in early)!

Where can we find you when you're not on the road?
You'll probably find me on my motorcycle heading for the Alps or Spain, or hurtling through a Welsh forest on my mountain bike being chased by my dog, Jack.

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